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Giles leaves Christian group after 8 not-so-quiet years

MONTGOPMERY (AP) — John Giles was a businessman, former aide to two governors and one-time unsuccessful candidate for lieutenant governor when, in 1999, he became president of the Christian Coalition of Alabama — a relatively quiet state organization mostly involved in national issues.

After working for former Republican governors Guy Hunt and Fob James, Giles had an idea he might be able to have an impact on the state as the Christian Coalition president.

“I had kind of seen in my Hunt days and my James days, the good, bad and the ugly of state government. I wanted to wake up and have an impact on public policy and elections,” Giles said.

He moved the organization’s offices from Birmingham to Montgomery at about the same time that a new governor was taking office — Democrat Don Siegelman, who had big plans to create a statewide lottery. It was a plan that put him almost immediately at odds with Giles, who helped lead an almost 10-month fight that ended in the defeat of Siegelman’s plan and showed the clout of the religious right.

Giles and his wife, Deborah, say they will now be looking for new battles to fight as he has resigned, effective next week, as president of Christian Action Alabama — the organization’s name since its recent split from the national group.

Lottery fight

The lottery fight was a battle that turned Giles quickly into a vocal lobbyist, frequently seen in the hallways of the Alabama Statehouse, lobbying against gambling, tax increases, abortion and other issues on the Christian Coalition agenda. He also pushed the organization’s voter guides and legislative report cards, which are distributed in churches across Alabama.

“I think he’s made the Christian Coalition the effective force it has been in Alabama politics in recent years,” said University of Alabama political scientist William Stewart.

Giles said he still doesn’t know what the future holds. He said he is considering returning to private business, but also may pursue opportunities where he would “have an impact on public policy and government.” He said he has no plans at this time to run for public office.

Besides well-publicized fights to stop gambling and tax increases, Giles has also vehemently fought charges that his campaigns against gambling were financed by Indian casinos in Mississippi.

The former executive director of the national Christian Coalition, Ralph Reed, has acknowledged taking money from lobbyists representing four Indian tribes with casinos, including the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

The Choctaws operate two casinos in Philadelphia, Miss., that draw large crowds from Alabama. Reed said his work involved helping defeat gambling measures in Alabama and other states. Giles has denied that money was ever used to fight gambling initiatives in Alabama, but he did question the tactics of Reed.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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